The Red Lion, Britwell Salome
by Piccadilly HillBilly
The Great Epiphany to start a blog with which to record my various ramblings fell suitably on my 23rd birthday. Naively assuming I would spend a blissful day lounging by the pool, fuelled by endless jugs of Pimms and steaks on the Barbie, these plans were very soon scuppered as I awoke in the early morning to a barrage of rain that hammered the roof with such ferocity that, for one panic-stricken moment, I was sure we were under heavy artillery fire. By 11, it was clear the day was not set to improve and so determined to not be beaten into submission by a little rain, we decided to walk to a local pub instead. Now when I say local pub, this ain’t just any old local pub. No. This is The Red Lion at Britwell Salome. The apogee of all pubs. This is what all pubs should be like in pub heaven. With food so mouth-wateringly, belly-achingly delicious it’s no surprise it was named best food pub in the South-East and London in the Great British Pub Awards last month. And so, with memories of the long, hazy summer days fast fading and in true British fashion, we set of at a march through the drizzle, Mother, Sister, Aunt, Uncle and three dogs in tow.
Having arrived appropriately sodden and not without a startling resemblance to a band of Worzel Gummidge impersonators, the walking talking scarecrow-cum-turnip, I soon discovered my spanking white Zara top to be sporting an unfortunate brown stain on both shoulders due to a severe leakage in the ancient Barbour jacket I was wearing. But then I could only blame myself to blame for foolishly wearing something I actually like in the countryside.
Already there and sitting rather smugly I noted, were Dad, both Brothers and Granny, having made the judicious decision to take the car instead of exposing themselves to the shambolic weather like a bunch of lunatics. After a hurried and failed attempt in the ladies room to remove the ugly brown shoulder pads now adorning my white shirt, I joined the others at our favourite table that nestles into the far end of the room, in prime position next to the bar and fireplace.
It was champagne for the girls, poured into those elegant champagne coupes that supposedly originate from a mould of Marie Antoinette’s lady parts, and Mr Chubbs for the boys. Torn from having to choose from the fine assortment of starters, we all opted for the taster selection, which basically means you get to try a bit of everything. However, this was no mishmash of random flavours and morsels clumsily arranged on a plate the way dads approach an all you can eat buffet. No, this was a taster selection Red Lion style.
Before I get to the technicalities I must warn you, I cannot remember the exact menu descriptions so apologies for the poor terminology you are about to read. Hopefully you will get the general idea anyway and for those of you that don’t, well never mind.
To get started, a shot of silky pea and mint soup appeared, which was then followed by an enticing platter of bitesize versions of the various starters on the menu.
The Scotch Egg was put to the test first. It is local knowledge that The Red Lion produces some of the best Scotch Eggs for miles around. A perfectly cooked egg, swathed in black pudding and encased in crispy breadcrumbs. These were cleverly constructed in miniature for our starter using quails eggs and although diminished in size, they were by no means diminished in taste.
A pork terrine on top of a sort of crisp flat bread came next, followed by a crostini, upon which laid one of the tastiest cheeses I have ever eaten. Topped with a grating of truffle and laid on sweet chutney, it made for a delicious mouthful. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of said cheese, you’ll just have to go and find it out for yourselves, but I can tell you that it was velvety and creamy, like a Brie but without the lardy undertones.
The surprise winner however, coming in at 6 votes to 1, was the delightfully moreish, crisp and juicy beer battered field mushrooms with an aioli dip. Who knew mushrooms could prove so lip-smackingly good? Certainly not me. And they don’t even have hallucinogenic powers. I fear it will be a long time before I come across such quality shrooms again.
The only slight disappointment was the smoked salmon crostini for its soggy bottom. The quality of the salmon on top however, not to mention the other triumphs, were good enough for me to forgive and forget.
For my main I had perfectly pink quail cooked in different ways on a bed of mushroom risotto. I relished every last mouthful and even then it took every effort to stop myself from licking the plate, which even I will admit is not really OK in public places. The others went for roast pork with buttery mash and a rare beef salad that I’m told were quite delicious.
Now I like to finish most meals with a chocolate something or other. Don’t get me wrong – I do love a good Tart Tatin, but I’m generally left unsatisfied by a pud unless chocolate is involved somehow. You will probably scold me for being small minded and unadventurous, but I’m sorry, that’s just the way I am and I show no signs of progressing. And so being the stickler for tradition that I am, I chose the Chocolate Torte which was really very good. Sadly the Sticky Toffee Pudding did not leave such good impressions, being somewhat over zealously heated on the toffee front so that it left a rather unpleasant burnt caramel taste in the mouth.
In a vain attempt to burn some of the thousands of calories we had just consumed, mum and I decided to walk home as well and, in order to very sensibly avoid the road and cut our journey time in half, we committed what can only be described as a hideous countryside faux-pas by trespassing over somebody else’s land. I assure you, Mum would NEVER normally commit such a heinous crime and therefore I can only put it down to being slightly under the influence at the time. Unfortunately the owner of said farmland enforces a tyrannical reign throughout the Shire and the very name is only ever mentioned with an impending sense of doom. But, undeterred in our hazy drunken state we made our merry way across the fields, giggling like school-girls and marvelling at the ingenuity of our plan. Luckily for us we were not met with the crook wielding tyrant and we crossed the vast expanse of field unscathed. However, mum says we are not into plain sailing yet. She is certain said neighbour must surely have been observing us quietly from some unseen vantage point. Most likely, dozens of cameras were honed in on us, recording every crushed seedling in minute detail as we ploughed on through the field. The Tyrant will be biding time Mum says, waiting for the perfect moment to exact revenge. I am now convinced we will never be safe again, and will be forever watching our backs every time we dare to venture out of the house.
But that’s really not the point. The point is that on that day, besides endangering our welfare for as long as we continue to inhabit the area, we were fortunate enough to enjoy what is surely some of the tastiest food for miles around. Locally sourced, no fuss food, this is British cooking at its very best. Even my lot could tell that this meal was something quite rare and exceptional, despite being fairly easily pleased when it comes their fare. On arriving home, still feeling as plump as ever, we checked in on Thomas and his hen friend who takes up residence in his stable, and went inside to find Dad snoozing by the fire with our pup, Rufus.